Scientifically assessing temperament helps ranchers make culling decisions
The importance of temperament in cattle varies from ranch to ranch, but regardless of whether it is a selection factor, Cliff Lamb from Texas A&M University’s Animal Science Department asserts every ranchers has experience with at least one cow that is “a little bit crazy and has a temperament problem.”
Because of the impacts temperament has on reproduction, including their ability to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, researcherhave begun to look at scoring temperament in a consistent manner.
“A number of researchers have tried to look at temperament more scientifically,” says Lamb.
The result of research efforts is a chute score, which assesses cattle restrained in a chute on a scale of one to five. Animals scoring a one are calm with no movement, where a score of five indicates an animal that violently struggles or tries to jump out of the chute.
“We can measure temperament using chute score or in terms of exit velocity, which is how fast the animals run out of a chute,” Lamb explains. “There are a couple of methods to do this.”
An electronic system can be used to time the animal and determine how long it takes them to reach a certain point after exiting the chute.
“We can also use a visual assessment and look at whether they walk away from the chute, trot away from the chute or run away to get away from us,” Lamb says. “There are a couple of ways we can do this.”
“In terms of temperament, usually we combine our chute score and exit velocity to come up with a temperament score,” he continues. “Those two values are somewhat correlated. Slower exit velocities and small chute scores have a lower overall temperament score.”
Lamb suggests classifying animals as either adequate or excitable.
“As beef cattle producers, we need to maintain some excitable temperament,” he says. “We need our cows to have some mothering ability and to chase away predators.”
“In cow/calf systems, there are a lot of challenges the cattle encounter, so there has to be some temperament,” Lamb continues. “If we look at the dairy industry, we’ve taken out a lot of the temperament, and dairy cows have much less mothering ability.”
More excitable temperament is also necessary in feedlots to ensure cattle are competing for bunk space and other feedlot challenges.
Other factors associated with temperament include sex, age, breed and the production system type.
“Female cattle tend to be more temperamental, and young animals are a little bit more excitable,” Lamb says.
Breed type has the most influence on temperament, and Lamb says Bos indicus cattle tend to be more temperamental than Bos taurus breeds.
Additionally, he notes, “Those animals that are not used to people – meaning range animals – tend to be more temperamental.”
Lamb spoke during 2018’s Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium, held in New Mexico.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.